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A Secret Unlocked by Harribobs

Posted by shirleycurran on 11 January 2019

We already saw Harribobs in March with his ‘All things must change’ and he is becoming a familiar Magpie name. There was something familiar about the first three lines of his preamble too – a familiar classical story – though, at this stage of our solve, we couldn’t pin it down

I did my usual hunt for the alcoholic clues but Harribobs was being relatively sober with Christmas just around the corner. There was just ‘Cordial he spotted in places around Ulster (6)’ What a clue! It had to be ‘A SEED round NI’ giving a poor replacement for Ireland’s Guinness, but I guess it must suffice. Cheers Harribobs.

We muttered a bit about the fact that the word lengths were those of grid entries, which, in 34 cases, were not the lengths of the solutions – and we counted the remaining clues, establishing that there were 13 that would indicate the theme to us. That was probably going to be the first or last letter of those clues and STEGANOGRAPHY was our first confirmation of the theme. The other Numpty explained to me that there are a number of complex Internet-related means of operating steganography but clearly this crossword would have to use a more approachable method.

The other Numpty also reminded me of the story of the servant who had a message imprinted into his skull, over which the hair grew, so that his head had to be shaved for the message to be read, and the secret was unlikely to be revealed by the uninformed slave or to fall into the wrong hands.

WHAT HAIR CONCEALS appeared next and we had to struggle work out the first half of the message since so many of our extra letters, as we fitted them into the cells in tiny pairs, turned out to be in unches. I initially suspected that we were removing the first, or last, letter of a solution but that theory collapsed when RACISTS had to intersect with SEASONAL. However, solving proceeded steadily and we were soon able to see USE TEMPLATE AND NOTE WHAT …

‘… an instruction that must be used along with the above text’ it said in the preamble, and a letter count established that there were 169 of them in the brief account of ARISTAGORAS’ machinations but how were we to find those five words? I initially copied the 169 letters of the template into a new grid then compared them with our solution grid, expecting to find five words in letters that corresponded. A fine red-herring.

We are in California, and my daughter-in-law who saw my struggles, said “Aren’t you just looking for the letters of H A I R? That’s what your message says.” Of course: ARISTAGORAS’ REVOLT AGAINST PERSIANS HISTIAEUS. There it was. Yet another very clever device to use in a Listener crossword.

Many thanks to Harribobs.


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Listener No 4533: Telling Lies by Somniloquist

Posted by Dave Hennings on 4 January 2019

Last year’s puzzle from Somniloquist was based on the poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and required a tricky quotation to go under the puzzle: “þe fayre hede fro þe halce hit to þe erþe”. Having spent ages tracking down the poem on the interweb, I then nearly forgot to change one of the ‘th’s to a þ. I hoped no unintended traps were waiting for me this week.

Good old extra letters in the wordplay greeted us for half the clues here, but it wasn’t long before something else seemed amiss. Although I should have sussed it with 1ac None find faults in fish, I got there a few clues later with 14ac Number eight conceals bedding ogre. Looking up bere revealed that it had nothing to do with ogres, just pillowcases.

It looked like these were the changes required in five other clues with a word missing in each. These turned out to be None, ogre, venom, own and loses. All well and good, but so what?

Eventually, the extra letters spelt out Cut out extra words then fold. Oh dear, and not for the first time this year, scissors again. Out came VENOM (row 2), LOSES (row 4), NONE (row 6), OGRE (row 7) and OWN (row 10).

Now I have to admit that it took me a few attempts at folding before I tried the simple left over right. So we had ALBERT and ANGELOBS JOHNSON! I decided on more sensible googling with Albert Angelo & Johnson, which revealed AA to be the eponymous title of a book by BS JOHNSON, et voilà. A bit of reading about it revealed that all the cutting out wasn’t just Somniloquist’s fanciful method of revealing the author and book. In it, Johnson, according to Wiki, “…achieved fame for having holes cut in several pages as a narrative technique.”

A bit of highlighting followed and the binning of the cut-out words saved JEG the trouble. I initially assumed the title had something to do with the book being full of holes, but a bit more Wikireading gave an extract from the book with Johnson’s belief that “telling stories is telling lies”. Sadly, he committed suicide at the age of 40.

Very entertaining and enlightening. Thanks, Somniloquist.

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L4533: ‘Telling Lies’ by Somniloquist

Posted by Encota on 4 January 2019

I wasn’t aware of the theme this week but the instructions seemed to work clearly and very well.

The extra letters from the clues spelt out: “CUT OUT EXTRA WORDS THEN FOLD”.

In the left-hand side of the grid could be found the five extra words: VENOM, LOSES, NONE, OGRE and OWN.  Carefully cutting them out and folding the grid vertically at its centre-line then showed the characters ALBER-T ANGE-LO and BS – JOHN-SON, a book – Albert Angelo by B.S.Johnson – where, apparently exactly this process was used.  Interesting …

… I vaguely recall a David Bowie documentary from years back when he described a related technique for constructing lyrics, using scissors, paper and glue.  … Or did I dream it?  Hunky Dory, perhaps?  Or the Berlin years?

Tim / Encota

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Telling Lies by Somniloquist

Posted by shirleycurran on 4 January 2019

An unusual grid, 14 X 12. We commented that there must be a reason for that, and of course there was – it had to fold into that little book. The preamble was unusually short too. We prefer it when all (or none) of the clues have an extra letter produced by the wordplay (not half) but that gave us no real problem tonight as the clues were gentle and fair and we had no doubt at all when there was an extra letter. Indeed, we hadn’t solved long before were aware that we were being told to CUT OUT EXTRA WORDS AND FOLD.

“Extra words?” said the other Numpty, but we had already wondered what VENOM was doing in the clue to GLOBS, ‘Drops of venom in edges of gerbil bites (5). We put O(f) intoG(erbi)L B(ite)S. YEAR was the same, ‘English are separating your own four quarters (4)’ We put E A into YR and highlighted the OWN as extra. ‘None find fault with fish (4)’. We already had CAR in our grid so that had to be CARP and we had NONE as an extra word.

Changes had to take place, we were told, in five clues. OGRE was next, since BERE (a pillow case) was hidden in ‘NumBER Eight conceals bedding (4)’

‘American kisses awkwardly and loses self-control (7)’ gave us LOSES as our final extra word (A + KISSES = ASKESIS, self-control – none of it lost) and by this time, with a nearly full grid, we had seen that those five words were happily placed on the left hand side of our grid, ready to be cut out. Symmetrically opposite, I read ALBERT ANGELO, BS JOHNSON, and had to go to Wikipedia to find out what that had to do with ‘telling lies‘. I learn something with every Listener crossword I solve.

I enjoyed chopping into my grid and folding it into a small book (a kind of sadistic pleasure in chopping into one of the things that give me so much stress now and then) – this was a different and ingenious end game. Many thanks to Somniloquist for a couple of hours of fun. Our ski resort opens tomorrow morning so I am very grateful not to be struggling with a ferociously difficult stinker.

Of course I haven’t forgotten to check Somniloquist’s retention of his entry ticket to the Listener Setters’ Oenophile Knees-up and he did have me worried at first with his ‘Sober eastern character (4)’ SAD + E, followed by ‘Herbal drink to stop ailment of intestinal section (5)’ where we put [T]EA into ILL to get ILEAL. But all is well. ‘Drunk Scots crave hot drink (6)’ we were told and we added [F]OU to LONG to give OULONG. Cheers, Somniloquist!

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Listener No 4532: How? by Twin

Posted by Dave Hennings on 28 December 2018

I’d forgotten that Twin had a puzzle last year. That was based on the Agatha Christie classic, Murder on the Orient Express and coincided with the cinematic release of the latest version of the film, this time starring Kenneth Branagh as Hercule Poirot.

This week, every down clue had a thematic word which had one letter changed and needed removing before solving. The correct letters would spell out a place and a person and some misspelling of the unclued entry. I’ve never been asked to misspell a word in a Listener before!

The preamble told us a lot of things, one of which was that the grid had to “accommodate the answers” in some way. That sounded horribly like they would have to be jumbled. Luckily a short way into solving, it could be seen that the numbers in brackets were larger than the entry space available and so referred to the answer length.

Solving went pretty smoothly, and it soon became obvious that some cells in an entry would have to hold more than one letter, and two seemed to be the amount of cell-cramming required. Meanwhile, although the extra words could be extracted fairly easily, the letter change and jumbling was trickier.

Now I’ve noticed before when solving a puzzle that I tend to focus on the clue in hand without any overall perception of what is happening elsewhere in the grid. This time, although I was aware that the double-lettered cells all fell at the start or end of entries, it was only much, much later that I saw that they all lay in the centre of rows and columns.

In fact everything came together swiftly at the end. Bigger on the inside described the cell-cramming and also the thematic place — the TARDIS®. Two hearts also described the place’s occupant and how the unclued entry needed misspelling.

This last bit nearly tripped me up, since it seemed obvious (!) that the unclued entry would be missplelt as GALLIFFREY since that conformed roughly with how it would be pronounced. Unfortunately, that would not conform to the “two hearts” instruction and thus needed to be entered as GALL–II–FREY — two hearts in two ways.

Tidying up the extra words in the clues, each could become, with one letter changed, a synonym for doctor, most of which could be confirmed by Mrs Bradford. For example: freeze→breeze (a new one to me), pull→pill, drum→drug, etc, with my favourite being the simple GOC→Doc. This last was part of my favourite clue 27dn [GOC] reorganised MASH hospitals, with 46 missing eye disorder — an anagram of MASH hospitals after all the esses (46ac) have been lost — OPHTHALMIA.

I should also mention my difficulty in parsing 26ac Two supporters — pair following the lead of Nottingham Forest supporter? (8). I initially had the pair following the lead of Nottingham as (N)OP(qrs…) but then couldn’t work out the supporters which looked like PROP and ROOT. Of course, the pair following was (N)OT(tingham) with PRO and PRO being the two supporters.

Finally, TIME AND RELATIVE DIMENSION IN SPACE needed highlighting as well as the A in row 1 representing the flashing light of the old police box.

I’ve come across Doctor Who puzzles before and was surprised that none apparently used this trick for entering answers in the grid. Thanks, Twin — great fun.

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